A report published in the Haaretz Hebrew newspaper on Sunday revealed that 2018 witnessed the departure of 35,000 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, through the Rafah crossing, in the largest voluntary migration of its kind from Gaza during the past years.
The new study confirmed earlier reports that most of the departures were among young people with university degrees, and come from families whose annual income is high, including 150 doctors from hospitals in Gaza.
It noted that migrants were usually deported to Turkey through local intermediaries arranging their travel and their transfer by boats to Greece, and then to other European countries.
Among the dozens of people killed when a boat capsized off Turkey last month were 13 Palestinians who fled the Gaza Strip, the report said. This is not the first study to highlight migration from the Gaza Strip, as a result of economic deterioration and lack of opportunities.
Israel has besieged some 2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip for more than 12 years, during which Hamas has ruled the area. The blockade has led to a dramatic rise in unemployment and poverty, with rates exceeding potential figures, accounting for more than half of the population.
In November 2017, the Rafah crossing was opened to traffic for the first time in a decade, allowing many residents to leave the Gaza Strip. Until the opening of the crossing, Gazans were able to board airplanes to Jordan only in a few exceptional cases.
According to data from international relief organizations related to the United Nations, in 2018, 60,907 people left the Gaza Strip to Egypt through the Rafah crossing, while only 37,075 of them returned to Gaza.
The cost of traveling to Turkey, the most popular destination for those leaving the Gaza Strip, is estimated at $4000.
Those leaving usually collect money from their families and sometimes receive loans to finance their departure. Other favorite destinations are Germany and Sweden.